Connecticut High School Grads Comprise Lion’s Share of Stellar New Freshman Class

'I knew right away that UConn was the right place for me,' says Annie Foley, an incoming Honors Program freshman from Orange.

'I knew right away that UConn was the right place for me,' says Annie Foley, an incoming Honors Program freshman from Orange. ()

Thousands of Connecticut’s most talented high school graduates are coming this week to UConn as part of the new freshman class, comprising three-quarters of a group that is the most diverse and among the most academically accomplished in recent history.

More than 4,000 of the approximately 5,500 freshmen enrolling across UConn’s campuses are Connecticut residents, hailing from 164 of the state’s 169 towns and cities.

The Class of 2022 represents UConn’s largest freshmen class ever, with about 1,000 transfer students – also mostly from Connecticut – joining the 5,500 new freshmen, according to preliminary figures released Aug. 22.

About 3,764 of the freshmen will be based at UConn Storrs, where first-year students begin moving into residence halls Aug. 24 and other students return throughout the weekend. Classes begin Aug. 27 at all campuses.

They’re also academically exceptional, with the freshmen at UConn Storrs averaging 1306 on their SAT scores – higher than any previous class – and reflect the diversity of the state and nation, with more than 40 percent being students of color.

President Susan Herbst said the recruiting successes are not due to luck; rather, she credits the state’s investments in the University to make it one of the best research institutions in the nation.

“UConn is today competing with many of the best schools in America for talented Connecticut high school graduates,” Herbst said Wednesday, as the new figures were announced at a State Capitol event featuring some of the new freshmen, along with legislators from throughout the state and other guests.

“We’re so successful at recruiting them because we have established a winning formula at UConn: exceptional academics, great faculty, and outstanding campus facilities – at a cost that is a value for Connecticut students and families, thanks to financial aid,” she said. “When you invest in UConn, you are investing in Connecticut’s future. And this class, like all our freshman classes, is some of the best evidence of that.”

This fall, UConn’s overall undergraduate student body will number about 24,375, with about 19,331 of those students based at Storrs.

About 74 percent of UConn’s incoming freshmen are Connecticut natives, the highest number in recent years. Overall, about 80 percent of UConn’s undergraduate student body hails from Connecticut, a figure that has held steady for about the past decade and is not expected to change in the foreseeable future.

Academically, their credentials are also impressive: UConn attracted 175 valedictorians and salutatorians this year across all campuses, and will add a record 550 freshmen students to its Honors Program.

“UConn offers so many opportunities academically, and I really trusted the close friends I have who’ve come here before me and told me how much they love it,” Annie Foley, an incoming Honors Program freshman from Orange, said of her choice to forego other schools and stay in Connecticut.

“I knew right away that UConn was the right place for me,” she said.

Foley is part of an academically exceptional class: Fifty percent of the incoming freshmen at Storrs were in the top 10 percent of their graduating high school classes, and 84 percent were in the top 25 percent.

“As we reviewed this year’s applicants, our admissions team marveled at the talent and diversity in the applicant pool,” said Nathan Fuerst, UConn’s vice president for enrollment planning and management.

“While competition for admission was intense, our entering students can rest assured that they earned their space in this class and are equipped with all the necessary tools for success at UConn,” he said. “We are awed by their achievement as the most diverse and academically gifted class in UConn’s history.”

All of this year’s incoming freshmen have already crossed a major hurdle in their college careers by being offered spots in UConn’s Class of 2022, since they were competing in a field of more than 38,000 applications.

Not only is that a new high, but 14,000 of those applications came from Connecticut residents – meaning one of every three graduating high school seniors in the state applied to UConn.

As was the case last year, new enrollment is also especially strong this year at UConn Hartford and UConn Stamford, both of which are far outpacing projections as the university’s investments in its regional campuses are drawing students specifically to those sites.

In fact, almost one-third of UConn’s new freshmen this year chose to enroll at one of the four regional campuses, up from about one-quarter of the freshmen in fall 2015.

Like many UConn freshmen from Connecticut, Windsor resident James Parsley said he initially considered a few out-of-state schools, but was so impressed when he delved into UConn’s offerings that deciding to pursue his education there was an easy choice.

Many of his friends from Windsor and from his 58-member graduating class at Great Path Academy, a magnet school based at Manchester Community College, also are coming to UConn, Parsley said. He is a physics major who is also considering engineering studies, and will be part of the EcoHouse Learning Community.

“UConn has been everything I expected and a lot more,” said Parsley, who took two classes under the five-week First Summer program at Storrs to get a head start on earning credits.

“I already knew the engineering program here is fantastic, but I didn’t know how many other great things UConn has in terms of clubs and activities. I definitely love it here even more than I thought I would,” he said.

Interest in UConn has increased steadily since 2001, when the University received about 13,600 applications. That growth defies national and regional trends, in which declines in the number of high school graduates have caused many universities to see their applications level off or decrease.

It also reflects UConn’s increasing academic stature, which has been recognized in national rankings, including its current spot as No. 18 among U.S. News & World Report’s top public universities.

That academic reputation brings talented students to Connecticut to study, many of whom stay in the state after graduation and build their careers here.

Vanita Patel, one of this year’s incoming freshmen, turned down offers from other schools to come to Storrs from her hometown of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., to join UConn’s pre-pharmacy program and the Honors Program.

She’s already found a favorite spot on campus – the swings near Mirror Lake – and is looking forward to joining clubs, trying the vegan food offered by UConn Dining Services, and becoming a full-fledged UConn Husky.

“There was nothing like the pre-pharm program they have here in any of the other places where I applied,” Patel said. “UConn has everything I want academically and I feel like I’ll have a lot of opportunities here that other schools really couldn’t provide. It was easily the right choice.”